Mar 11, 2013

Using Google and CMS to Streamline a Classroom Project


A science lab testing the effects of pollution on a living organism.  Students need to research pollution types, create a hypothesis, test a variable, record data, and create a final lab report.  This is to be done in groups of three.  The kicker...we don't want to use any paper because this is an environmental science class!


 Create a topic in your CMS course and outline what needs to be done for the project, day by day.  Include instructions, examples, and links to relevant content that will help your students.  Students do record their research in a Google Document, and use the research tool in Google Documents to assist them.  Students create their experiment data tables and charts using Google Spreadsheet, and insert the results into their lab report (created in Google Documents).  These items are then shared with the teacher through Google, or can be uploaded to CMS.

How We Did It:


It all started with the CMS page!  Below you will see a sample of what the resulting CMS page looked like once we were finished with it (click to enlarge the images).

[caption id="attachment_1211" align="alignnone" width="205"] Notice the break down of days, calendar, and checklist.[/caption]


Next, we have an image of the checklist that was created for this project.  This is an activity in CMS that allows a teacher to create a list of activities for students to complete.  Both the teacher, and students, and update the checklist and keep track of progress.

[caption id="attachment_1213" align="alignnone" width="300"] Checklist: dates added to the checklist will automatically be placed on the CMS calendar.[/caption]


The next image demonstrates what one of the "Day" pages looks like.

[caption id="attachment_1215" align="alignnone" width="178"] This page contains descriptive text, example images, and due date information.[/caption]


Once of the major advantages that this teacher found when using CMS for their project is the flexibility of the content.  He could easily change the Day Three page if something unexpected came up on Day Two (which did happen).  No longer was the text static on a handout, unable to be changed.  He did not have to explain a change in the packet, and hope that kids made the alteration on their paper.  CMS allows you to constantly change content based on you day to day experiences.

Next Up: Google Apps!

First, sample Google Document and Spreadsheet were created so that we could work through how students would create these documents.  This practice on our part allowed us to catch tricky steps that we would not have without going through the process ourselves.  These two documents could be shared with students in "view only" or "comment only" modes if you would like them to have a template in their Google Drive accounts, or (as was done in our case) you could take snapshots of important sections and insert them into your appropriate CMS pages.

[caption id="attachment_1218" align="alignnone" width="278"] A template can be used to give a model for students with explanatory details.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1219" align="alignnone" width="300"] Note: To move a table or chart from Spreadsheet to Documents, you use the Web Clipboard.[/caption]


Students created a class folder (in this case, Environmental Science) and shared it with the teacher.  They then created their documents within that folder, and they were automatically shared.  They were given due dates throughout the project, with updated needing to be completed by 11:59 PM.  Using the Revision Tracker in Google Apps (File --> See Revision History), the teacher can see if progress was being made based upon their timeline.

In the end, using Google Apps and CMS made this project more streamlined, flexible, and easy to follow.  As an added benefit, around 160 pages of paper were saved!


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